An Iowa law professor has deconstructed those pink walls in Kinnick Stadium, and, instead of seeing them as a joke, has found semiotic messages of misogyny and homophobia there. "The pink locker room is a subtle way of painting the words 'sissy,' 'girlie man' . . . on the walls," Erin Buzuvis charges. She is suggesting that the locker room be redone, presumably in a more serious-minded and gender-neutral taupe, gunmetal or ochre....Okay, there's a lot going here, and I need to break it down into several points.
"In this context, putting your opponent in a pink locker room is saying, 'You are weak like a girl,' or 'You are weak like a gay man,' " Buzuvis wrote in her blog....
You have to try awfully hard to take offense at what's implied in a color....
If you are not offended by Iowa's pink locker room, it may be because you recognize a joke, a tease, and a riff. You realize that contact with the dread color pink does not actually make a man weak, or a woman, either.
1. The fact that something is a joke doesn't mean it can't be offensive, and taking offense at something meant as a joke doesn't mean you don't get the joke. You can imagine a blatantly racist or sexist joke that is also hilarious that you would nevertheless know damn well not to tell. You'd never think saying "Hey, it's a joke" would get you out of trouble. And it shouldn't.
2. I'm sure Buzuvis understands the humor of the pink locker room. (I'd link to Buzuvis's blog, but she seems to have taken it down.) She's just offended by the University's engaging in humor that is widely perceived as making a connection between women and weakness. (I realize the original reason for pink is supposedly that it is a restful color, not that it is a girly color.)
3. The real question is what feminists ought to do about it. We could laugh along, ignore it, blog an objection once, write and complain about it a lot, or go all activist about it and demand that the University apologize and redecorate. There's a whole range of possible reactions.
Some people at Iowa seem to have decided to take the activist route:
''I want the locker room gone,'' law school professor Jill Gaulding told a university committee studying the athletic department's compliance with NCAA standards, including gender equity.I wouldn't have picked this battle. The pink locker room is a long tradition -- a sports tradition, at a big sports school. Most people think it's funny and in good fun. Feminists have long had the problem of looking like they don't have a sense of humor. (I remember a Ms. Magazine story from the early 1970s on the subject. I remember it so vividly I can describe the cover. It had a picture of Wonder Woman and the lines: "Do you know feminists have no sense of humor?" and "No, but if you hum a few bars, I'll play along.") It doesn't help feminism to trigger the old prejudice that feminism is grim and puritanical.
It's one thing to lay out feminist critique on your blog. If you do, it's important to work out ways to be good at feminist blogging. That would include sharp-tongued humor, strong observation, and surprising insights, not platitudes and legalisms.
It's quite another thing to threaten to take away the things people love. Some things people love are worth destroying. The pink locker room isn't one of them.
UPDATE: Iowa lawprof Tung Yin wrote about the controvery a while back, here and here. Lots of heated comments over there too.